At Talking Points Memo, Editor Josh Marshall puts the current political moment, the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, the fate of the infrastructure package and Biden’s agenda in political perspective. “What is really important,” Marshall writes, “is that Democrats are looking at a window of six to eight weeks which will decide the fate of the President’s fiscal, infrastructure and climate agenda. That is September and October basically and whether we’ll end this window with the two conjoined bills in something like their current or proposed form on the President’s desk.”
Marshall adds, “The mechanics of the US withdrawal from Afghanistan really shouldn’t have anything to do whether we pass critical climate legislation or refundable child tax credits. But it has a lot to do with it. Elected officials want to stay close to a popular President and show independence from a less popular one. And we are going into a period in which the President and Democratic leaders in Congress will need to keep literally every Democratic Senator on the same page and all but three Reps in the House. It’s not a great time for the President to look weak or getting beat up politically. But here we are.”
Looking ahead, Marshall writes,
So what’s to be done? Well, that really depends on who you are and where you are. But clarity is helpful. There’s a good chance Democrats will lose unified control of Congress – and thus the ability to pass legislation – next year no matter what they do. Realizing that can actually be a bit liberating since it allows you to focus on passing as much important legislation as possible without too much distraction of calibrating it for political protection. If you get the critical legislation passed the consequences of losing congressional control are significantly reduced. After all, Democrats will have at least two years with a Democratic President after the 2022 elections. Of course, what is added to this, what is clarifying is that Democrats political prospects are almost certainly bettered by passing the President’s agenda. But even if they weren’t it would be the wisest course. Substance and political self-interest both point in the same direction.
What it all comes down to is that the President’s approval numbers don’t terribly matter. As a political matter, the situation in Afghanistan doesn’t matter that much. All that really matters is passing the President’s agenda over the next two months. Passing critical legislation is why you elect people in the first place. And passing big legislation builds political power.
The power to accomplish all this is 100% in Democrats hands right now. They just have to stick together to get it done. They need to keep stragglers from straying. The public gloom over COVID not being over makes that harder. The situation in Afghanistan makes that harder. But getting that central, critical task done is really all that matters.
Put another way, Democrats must stay pro-active, and not let the Republicans drive the debate. Hold the GOP accountable for their dangerous policies and corruption, but don’t let them dominate media coverage. In the months ahead, Dems must reject internecine sniping, and demonstrate an impressive level of unified message discipline. Show swing voters who is in charge, when it comes to passing popular reforms and moving America forward.